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Sydney Design Week invites us to lean into lessons of last year

Sydney Design Week will present six free digital sessions on hyperconnectivity – a theme that creative director Stephen Todd says is about remembering what we learnt in 2020.

Sydney Design Week invites us to lean into lessons of last year

A model by Studio Bouroullec.

Featuring a stellar line-up of Australian and international designers, the Powerhouse Museum’s Sydney Design Week is moving online to present six sessions based on hyperconnectivity.

“That idea of hyperconnectivity came out of last year and I decided to really lean into what we learnt in 2020. Now that we’re coming out of the pandemic, let’s not forget the lesson,” says Sydney Design Week creative director Stephen Todd.

Stephen Todd curator of Sydney Design Week 2021

Stephen Todd, photography by Anthony Amos

Todd is no stranger to facing the lessons of 2020. Just as the commissions went out for last year’s Sydney Design Week, he was in New York for the Rem Koolhaas exhibition Countryside, The Future at the Guggenheim. “We started hearing about a virus and everyone thought, ‘Oh it’s fine, it’ll go away’,” says Todd, who at the time was a consultant for Sydney Design Week. Of course, COVID-19 persisted and the original program was significantly hindered.

A year on and although the Powerhouse Museum planned for a physical event for the 2021 Sydney Design Week, the city’s current wave of COVID-19 once again obstructed those plans – but Todd, who is now creative director of the event, has an alternative devised. A very condensed version of the original program has been conceived, which Todd says will display “the very essence” of the design week.

A model by Studio Bouroullec

While forming the theme of the talks, hyperconnectivity also forms the program’s model of hyperconnected international communication, something which was further embraced in 2020.

“It seems to me that one of the strongest things that we learnt last year was that even in the depths of isolation, we are intrinsically connected. Especially those in the creative industries, people found ways to keep working. People found ways to keep communicating,” says Todd. “We were very agile and very adept at navigating that situation as horrible and as heartbreaking as it was.”

Chair Marc 1 by Marc Newson

While it’s hard for Todd to choose a talk he’s most excited for, he does speak animatedly about his session with UK-based designer Marc Newson.

“Marc Newson has a very particular connection to Sydney, because he grew up here and studied here, and also the Powerhouse holds the world’s largest collection of his work,” says Todd. Coincidentally, he tells me, it is the 20th anniversary of Newson’s first museum retrospective show, Design Works, which originally showed at the Powerhouse. “So it’s kind of an anniversary conversation, in a way,” says Todd.

Drawing on the museum’s history with Newson, the discussion will be an informal insight into Newson’s process that is “intelligent but not intellectual”, according to Todd. They plan to discuss some of his most recognisable designs, before looking at his more recent works, including limited edition pieces that he shows at Gagosian Gallery in New York and Galerie Kreo in Paris. “It’ll be really getting the designer insight into his own thinking and experiences,” says Todd.

Lighting design by Lindsey Adelman

Another session close to Todd’s heart is Workplace As Community. The livestream will bring together Lindsey Adelman of Lindsey Adelman Studio, David Flack of Flack Studio, and Yasmine Ghoniem of YSG. “It’s going to be a conversation about their work, but also about the way they work. People have this image of the interior designer or the designer as elitist and off in their own world, and that’s not what that person is anymore,” says Todd.

“The strength of the Powerhouse is being able to facilitate a meeting of these creators,” he says.

Book Your Sydney Design Week Sessions Today: 

Imagining Music 

Jonathan Zawada (AU)
16 September, 12-12:30pm

‘Discovered’ Designers For Tomorrow 

Sarah Douglass (UK), Mac Collins (UK), Adam Markowitz (AU), Ivana Taylor (AU) 16 September, 7-7:45pm

Workplace As Community 

Lindsey Adelman (US), David Flack (AU), Yasmine Ghoniem (AU) 17 September, 10-10:45am

Urban Transformers 

Tina Pang (HK), Gary Change (HK), Jennifer Mcmaster (AU) 17 September, 11:30am-12:15pm

Public Space 

Ronan Bouroullec (FR) 17 September, 6-6:30pm

Design Works 

Marc Newson (UK) 17 September, 7-8pm


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